108 Predictions, But How Do You Save the World?
The Oracle Year by Charles Soule
Harper Perennial - April 2018
This thriller from acclaimed comic book writer, Charles Soule, makes you question what you'd do with the power of 108 predictions that could change the world?
*An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
A couple months ago Harper Perennial reached out to me and asked if I'd like to review Charles Soule's new novel. Um excuse me? Yes please!
Soule is one of the first comic book writers I read when I started my foray into comic books! My boyfriend is an avid comic book reader and when we first started dating he tried his darnedest to get me to read comic books too. One of the first comics I picked on my own, that interested me, without recommendations was Charles Soule's She-Hulk (2014). Kevin Wada's gorgeous covers caught my eye and a comic about a professional woman who's also a superhero that doesn't devolve into a stereotypical representation of the "working woman"?! Thank the comic gods! I loved that She-Hulk was a badass, both as a lawyer and a hero. So really, thanks to Soule - and a few other writers - I started reading more comics!
So there's a bit of the backstory as to why I proceed to run around my bedroom like a crazy lady after Harper Perennial asked to send me an advanced reader's copy of The Oracle Year. Before we move on here's the premis: Will Dando is an ordinary New Yorker bassist who awakens one morning with 108 predictions about the future, from mundane things like what a particular person will eat to major catastrophes. "Protecting his anonymity by calling himself the Oracle, he sets up a heavily guarded website with the help of his friend Hamza to selectively announce his revelations. In no time, global corporations are offering him millions for exclusive access, eager to profit from his prophecies." Of course, knowing the future and challenging the status quo of governments and religious institutions creates numerous enemies for 'the Oracle'. Moreover, Will questions why he was given this knowledge and what he's supposed to do with it as things spiral out of his control.
Combining the pace of a thriller with the epic, dare I say ridiculous and far fetched plot of a comic book (in the best way possible), Soule keeps it all together with approachable characters. In comic book fashion, readers are given a situation that quickly unfolds, however some readers may be irked that some of world-building or plot devices are not fully explained - you kind of just have to go with it. At one point in the book, Will explains that it doesn't matter where the predictions came from, it only matters what he does now that he has them. Again, this type of set up is pretty common in comic books but might throw off some readers that like to have everything clearly defined.
I think a strong part of the book was how small and large events were seemingly intertwined. Thus everything was important. Additionally, all of the characters were incredibly normal. Will is a musician trying to make ends meet, his best friend Hamza was an investment banker, and Hamza's wife, Miko, was a elementary school teacher. However, despite their ordinariness they're set on figuring out what to do with the predictions. Besides Will, Hamza, and Miko, the other side characters like televangelist Hosiah Branson and the President's right-hand man Anthony Leutchen were awful characters but felt so real!
I blew through the book in a couple days! I think fans of thrillers will love this! If you enjoyed Blake Crouch's Dark Matter (2016) I think you'd also enjoy this! Like Crouch's Dark Matter, Soule contemplates how our choices and 'free will' affect our lives and the world. As mentioned above, Will Dando is a pretty ordinary dude given the heavy burden of know good things and bad things that will happen. He has to decide how he'll wield that power. Will it be for his own monetary gain or will he try to help the world? So while it fits within the genre of thriller, I appreciated the smaller contemplative moments as well.
I'm looking forward to seeing what else Soule writes in the future whether it be comics or novels!